College Plans Virtual Graduation for Online Students

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Published June 08, 2009

| FoxNews.com

Many colleges and universities offer online courses. But only one's having an online graduation.

Bryant & Stratton College, a for-profit institution with campuses in four states, plus an online division, plans to host a graduation ceremony June 10 in Second Life, the online virtual world.

Fittingly, the commencement address will be delivered by Second Life founder Philip Rosedale.

"The Bryant & Stratton ceremony will be the first time a graduation will be fully hosted on Second Life, including the procession, the commencement speaker and the conferring of degrees to students who are even draped in their digital caps and gowns," says the college's Web site.

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Jessica Blackmer, a spokeswoman for Bryant & Stratton, said the college started using Second Life about five months ago.

"We use it to hold open houses and student events, and have also designed a virtual campus for students to tour," she explained.

No classes are held in Second Life, she added, but there was the possibility that guest lectures might be.

"For example, if a law professor wants to address the paralegal students," said Blackmer, "we may hold that in Second Life."

The admissions office came up with the idea as a way for the online students scattered across the country to gather in one place without having to travel to Orchard Park, N.Y., near Buffalo, where the physical ceremony was held May 29.

Online students also had the option of attending bricks-and-mortar class graduations at the school's 15 campuses in New York, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

About 40 of the 133 graduating online students will be attending the virtual ceremony, Blackmer said. Only students, family, faculty and staff are allowed to attend.

A four-year bachelor's degree online from Bryant & Stratton costs roughly $58,000 -- about $10,000 more than a single year of tuition, room and board at Harvard.

Asked whether Bryant & Stratton planned to make online graduation a tradition, Blackmer said, "Absolutely."

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